Not currently offered
Course code



10 units


6000 level

Course handbook


Traditionally, states have primarily sought to ensure that business entities operate in a socially and environmentally responsible manner by using a 'command and control' approach: that is, they have established legal rules and put in place inspectorates and courts to monitor compliance and punish non-compliance.

Globalisation has challenged this approach, and even for business activity wholly within state borders this model has not always proved effective. This course will critically consider the efficacy of legal and non-judicial alternatives, including: alternative legal structures for business (especially cooperatives), responsive regulation, multi-stakeholder initiatives, ethical investment and ethical consumerism. Case examples will focus on state and private initiatives designed to ensure that business entities respect employment rights and operate in an environmentally responsible manner.


Not currently offered.

This Course was last offered in Summer 2 - 2020.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Critically reflect on different theoretical perspectives regarding the influence of business entities on respect for human rights and the environment and be prepared to comment on these perspectives.

2. Compare and critically evaluate efforts by states to ensure that business entities respect human rights and the environment through judicial and state-based non-judicial mechanisms and by providing scope for alternative legal structures, such as cooperatives.

3. Compare and critically evaluate efforts by business entities, including co-operatives, to implement human rights and environmental obligations, including through participation in non-state non-judicial mechanisms, such as multi-stakeholder initiatives.

4. Design appropriate and innovative strategies to influence corporations to move towards the organisational change required to address human rights abuse or environmental degradation that is linked to their business activity.


The topics in this course include the following:

  1. The social and environmental impact of major corporations - what impact and why?
  2. Traditional approaches to regulating the social and environmental impact of business, and the way globalisation and other developments have challenged those traditional approaches
  3. Responsive regulation - different models of board representation; involvement of public interest groups in negotiating rule-making and enforcement;
  4. 'Softlaw" approaches: the UN guiding principles on business and human rights, the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises and other state-based non-judicail mechanisms;
  5. Corporate Social Responsibility: philanthropy, corporate codes of conduct, social auditing, and multi-stakeholder initiatives;
  6. Ethical investment and ethical consumerism: social labelling and rating schemes;
  7. What impact can motivated individuals inside big corporations have on social and environmental practice;
  8. The role of social movements in creating pressure for better corporate practice;
  9. Alternative corporations - co-operatives, mutuals, benefit corporations and other types of legal models that seek to balance economic returns with social output;
  10. Understanding the role of the ICA's seven co-operative principles in building an international social movement;
  11. Promoting co-operatives - ILO Recommendation 193 and the role of the international co-operative movement in the provision of 'decent work';
  12. Social and community enterprise - new approaches to energy, housing and service provision.

Assessment items

Participation: Quality of contributions to in-class discussion

Written Assignment: Drafting exercise

Essay: Research Essay

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.